JOHANNESBURG: She was then left alone in a dark room and told to write down phone numbers of family and friends on a piece of paper.
South Africa opera singer Pretty Yende has thanked fans for their support after being subjected to what she called “outrageous racial discrimination” by French immigration authorities.
In a Facebook post Yende said she was “stripped and searched like a criminal offender” and put in a cell at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
She said the experience made her worried about her life: “I was filled with so many negative thoughts. I’m still shaken thinking that I am one in a million who managed to come out of that situation alive.”
Yende said she was then left alone in a dark room and told to write down phone numbers of family and friends on a piece of paper.
“I asked, ‘Am I a prisoner?’ He rudely said, ‘Yes,’ and I decided to comply and just do what they say,” she wrote about her exchange with a police officer, who also denied her request to get a charger for her phone.
Yende, an acclaimed soprano, had arrived on Monday to take her starring role in La Sonnambula, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, in Paris, the UK Guardian news site reports.
A French official told the AP news agency that the singer was detained because she did not have a visa.
Issuing a statement, Yende said “I did NOT need a visa to enter or work in any of the European countries, including France.”
The French authorities claimed that “The documents she was showing did not allow her to enter French territory,” the official said, saying that the singer was questioned for an hour and later allowed in the country.
However, Yende denied those allegations through her statement and she said, “I’d like to clarify that I DID have all the necessary documents that permit me to move freely and work since 2009. I have an unlimited permesso di soggiorno italiano (Italian residency permit) which is being renewed and a permesso di soggiorno improvvisorio (temporary residence), which I presented to the police at the border control and posting right now,” she added.
Another police source told news agency AFP that the singer was held for 30 minutes for “verification” purposes that had nothing to do with the colour of her skin.
But Yende concluded her statement said, “additionally, it is stated the police officers did not take all of my belongings including my phone. Well, they did take all of my personal belongings and my phone.
“There is a proof, as well,” she concluded.
Efforts to get a comment from French Embassy were unsuccessful.
Additional reporting by AF news agency